Less than a decade ago, spending a couple of hours with friends messing around with a set of paints was generally something you only did if you were still in grade school. But in 2012, Paint Nite changed that forever. Founded by Dan Hermann and Sean McGrail, they set out to transform the way adults hung out with one another. At Paint Nite events, you trade your finger paints for brushes and a canvas and your juicebox for a glass of pinot.
The idea took off and today there are thousands of Paint Nite events being hosted in 1,700 cities across North America. To learn more about their success and talk about what's next, I chatted with Paint Nite cofounder, Dan Hermann.
Growing up with an appreciation of art, but without the natural talent for it, Dan still wanted to find an outlet for his creativity. When it dawned on him to combine that desire with a way to be out and about with friends, "I knew we had stumbled on a chocolate-and-peanut-butter kind of combo." People were clearly instantly intrigued, but that doesn't mean their first attempt was a walk in the park.
"[It] was an adventure," Dan says, because in an unforeseen set of circumstances, the power went out for a good chunk of Boston that night. Clery's Bar was one of the only buildings to still have light, and lucky for Dan, that was exactly where he happened to be hosting the inaugural Paint Nite. A lucky star must have been shining on the bar that night, and Dan remembers it fondly saying, "It was pure gold right from the opening bell. Laughter, cocktails, truly great and authentic people . . . I'll never forget the positive energy in that room."
But how does Paint Nite work, exactly? Where does the inspiration for all that art come from? The short answer, is that "Paintings can originate from anywhere and anyone." But more specifically, Dan's referring to Paint Nite's relatively ingenious Painting Share Program. The program is an enormous inventory where anyone can upload their paintings to become part of a massive library that event organizers can use for their individual events. But artists aren't donating their creative efforts as an act of charity—they'll get paid every time one of their designs is used for an event! "Many people earn a nice living just off those residual checks!" says Dan.
As for the event hosts? Sure, some of them are classically trained artists looking for a way to share their passion, but plenty of others are from all kinds of walks of life, from kindergarten teachers to auto mechanics. "And just like the painting choices, event hosts are completely chosen by our local partners, who know their communities best."
And that's clearly working for Paint Nite's customers. In a 2016 article by Inc. they reported that more than 200,000 people participate in Paint Nite events every month. But is Dan shocked by his success? "Proud, but not surprised," he says, "I'm . . . thrilled to see so many other people just getting involved in such an important movement: bringing creative and human interaction back into people's lives." In fact, the events have even see their fair share of marriage proposals! "Talk about energy and atmosphere coming alive!" says Dan.
So what does the future hold for Paint Nite? Well, their sister offering, Plant Nite, is already off to a great start. Instead of painting, participants will build their own living terrariums to take home and love turning friends into plant moms and dads. Though Dan hints that even more exciting developments are on the horizon. At the end of the day, though, he says it's simple: "Our secret sauce is no secret; people love sharing unique experiences together." We couldn't have said it better ourselves.